Another day, another hernia surgery

About eight months ago, I concluded that the lump forming on the right side of my groin was a) not cancer, b) not fat, and c) an awful lot like the lump that formed on the left side of my groin back in 2010.

Dr. Emma confirmed pretty swiftly: hernia. More than likely the same as the one on my left, an inguinal (defect of the abdominal wall, through which intestines can start poking through), readily repairable. Which meant a visit to Dr. Steve Martin again.

No, he still doesn’t have an arrow through his head.

Dr. Martin didn’t even blink, didn’t even bother to request an ultrasound: inguinal, most likely congenital. That was a new twist. I had passed off my my first hernia as an injury from carrying a 10 kg, 2 year-old Monkey (daughter, not the namesake animal) up several hundred stairs at La Fortuna waterfall in Costa Rica. But after Choo Choo had been diagnosed with congenital hernias (not yet present, but inevitable), corrected when she was six, suddenly it seemed a little more obvious where she’d gotten them from.

Thus came the surgery, which was yesterday. Spoiler alert: it was pretty similar to the first time I had surgery.

Even though I didn’t need to be at the hospital until 9:00, I woke at 7:00. I figured I was going to be sleeping a fair bit, so there wasn’t much point in getting too much sleep. (I also haven’t slept well in months, owing to either my bursitis, an awful congestion that dogged me for 6 weeks, or a combination of both.) But save for a splash of water, I couldn’t eat or drink.

I showered at 8:00, one of the pre-op requests. I mean, who wants a stinky patient, right? By 8:30 I was getting obstinate about leaving for the hospital, largely as the older I get, the more I hate being late for anything, even things I really don’t want to do.

The day before, Alex and the kids had asked me if I were excited for surgery. I can’t figure anyone who would be genuinely excited for actual surgery – being cut open is just not one of those things that an average person would want. I was excited to be healed and back to regular function, but that won’t be until the first week of July. I’ve six weeks of recovery ahead of me (and believe me, first day after surgery, this is going to be a long [CENSORED] recovery). Suffice to say, I was thinking only about the next thing in the process chain: checking in at the hospital on time; I couldn’t care less about the next thing after that.

(This is a handy coping mechanism, in case you need one. Some people get really worked up about huge, massive problems because how do you solve a huge, massive problem all at once? You can’t, that’s not a reasonable approach. Instead it, do it in pieces – the proverbial “eating an elephant” – which is far easier. You don’t look at the scary bit, you look at the next thing in chain to get you to that scary bit.)

Yes, I was scared. Not terrified, but I really didn’t want general anesthesia again. The first time I’d had it, I felt like I’d just had a real-life experience of a movie cut scene: character does something, sudden cut to the next scene without realization of passage of time nor memory of any event (or dream) occurring in between. It’s trippy and not an experience I’m overly fond of. (The second time that I had a general – for my appendix – was far, far worse.) I’d realized that I wanted a local this time so I wouldn’t have as negative an experience, but that didn’t make the Scary Bit™ any less daunting.

The four of us packed into the e-Golf (which I prayed I wouldn’t be picked up in) and trucked off. Monkey had the day off (due to diploma exams at her school) and was going with Alex to Costco after they dropped me off; we were going to drop Choo Choo at school (when she got out, I didn’t get an ounce of sympathy other than “don’t die”; thanks for directly targeting the Scary Bit™, kid).

Parking in Rockyview Hospital’s multistorey lot, we headed in through the main entrance to Admitting, where I dropped off my ID for processing; Alex and Monkey traipsed over to Diagnostic Imaging to drop of Alex’s thing for her return to work on next Tuesday. I waited for my turn to talk to the clerk to confirm my details, my procedure, and my start time, which took all of a minute. By the time Alex and Monkey returned, it was as if I’d never moved.

I realized on the way to drop of Choo Choo that I’d neglected to bring any form of reading material. But good luck finding any in the hospital – the Rexall had none, nor did the Red Thread Store (though it did have an overly healthy amount of mushroom-themed gifts). I was dropped at Day Surgery, at which point panic mildly took over, and I utterly failed to say goodbye to my family as I slowly disappeared into my potential doom. (Yes, being overly dramatic is a symptom of the Scary Bit™.)

My gurney was waiting for me, as was my hospital gown and two bags for my personal things. Strip down, don the gown, climb under the sheets, and wait. A nurse appeared as I open the curtains again, indicating I was ready for whatever was to come next. I’d already received my barcoded hospital band at Admitting, which was then supplemented with what looked like a luggage tag with the word “Penicillin” scrawled in Sharpie. (It’s unconfirmed and debated, but the actual allergy test more-or-less requires an ambulance to be present in case I have a severe reaction.) And down the checklist of things I continued, working closer and closer to the Scary Bit™.

And I waited. I even attempted to doze a bit, which isn’t easy in a a room full of curtained beds, passing nurses (all women, I might add, no male nurses to be found that day), and overhead announcements that had nothing to do with the department. But in the absence of anything else, you do what you can.

My third nurse appeared about an hour after I crawled into bed for my IV. This had been the thing I least looked forward to, other than the ultimate reason I was there, as I dislike needles. I mean, everyone dislikes needles, and I suppose I’ve finally gotten to the larger “Tolerate” percentage of people, rather than the “somebody will have to tie me down” percentage, where I used to dwell, but getting an IV port in my hand still lies well in that “I hate this part” of the procedure. It stung and hurt for a good 20 minutes after.

And then I waited some more.

The next part, which I knew from Alex and from what I’d been told, was the porter, a nice person in maroon who’d appear to wheel me over to the surgical area. This woman, like everyone else’s name, I forgot almost as soon as I heard it, looked barely big enough to move the gurney, but soon told me about how her new knee was going to change her life this spring as she could finally truck up and down mountains again. Out the gurney door of Day Surgery, briefly up the hall, around the corner, a short way down another hall, through a door, and parked in a waiting area. And she was gone as soon as she’d entered my life, only the knee story to remember her by.

I didn’t wait long, Dr. Martin appearing a few moments later. The pace was picking up, my checklist running out of items to tick off, the Scary Bit™ was a freight train in the tunnel getting painfully bright. He brought up a screen with the form I’d signed at his office eight months ago, confirmed the surgery with an “X marks the spot”-style marker stroke on my groin, went over most of the recovery notes (which I would later receive in printed form), then wheeled the gurney to just outside the OR.

I focused on the doctors and nurses walking past, one of whom stub-squeaked their shoe rather loudly, eliciting a “good one” from me. Focus on the humour, not on what lay next to me.

Dr. Chan appeared a few minutes later. My anesthetist, we talked about my sedation experiences and I declared my preference for a local over a general, to avoid as much of the Scary Bit™ as possible. He concurred, saying it would be faster for recovery, and I prepared myself for about thirty minutes of strange feeling in my groin as repairs took place. I was then reminded that my local was not a spinal block, which is what Alex had during her c-section with Choo Choo. I could hear the Scary Bit™ chuckling softly.

Finally, the surgical nurse, who seemed far too cheery for my nerves at the time, appeared and had me hop off the bed. I was to walk into the OR under my own power. My mind suddenly went to “dead man walking” when I was hit in the front with the utter chill of the operating room. I gasped, declared the room a freezer, and was quickly corrected by someone: “It’s more like a beer fridge”.

“Well, you’ve got lousy selection.”

The OR table was a lot narrower than I remembered, barely my own body width. We untied the gown, my bare ass laying on the sheets on the table, and laid back. My left arm – the one with the IV – went onto an narrow extension that went off at about a 75 degree angle from the table, eliciting a sharp reminder from my bursitis that it was not a desired position. It took a few moments for it to settle down. Whilst that was happening, I felt my right arm being placed (and strapped down, along with my left) to a similar extension. The Scary Bit™ was circling in the room, but things were happening so quickly that I was starting to lose focus, which in hindsight was a good thing.

“Okay, here comes the fun stuff!” said Dr. Chan as something was added to my IV. I expected something akin to my THC experience last summer, but as a mask was donned over my face, I barely got to remark the peculiar smell of the plastic before I felt the sensation of being wheeled out of the room again. There wasn’t a scene change, no blackness of any kind, it was like the Golden Raspberry for Worst Editing. In the rushing of air from the overhead ventilation, the Scary Bit™ laughed: “Ha! Got you again!”

I was wheeled further down the hall to recovery and tucked into the #2 bed slot. The room was quiet, save for the watchful eyes of nurses and beeping of the odd machine. A nurse came by and asked to my condition, which I think was more along the lines of “are you feeling nauseous”, though my memory is a tad hazy at this point. But unlike my previous general anesthesia, I was awake and alert and not fighting to keep my eyes open. This time, I remember the room.

I wasn’t there long, transported back to Day Surgery about thirty minutes later, tucked into a room in the corner that had glass doors, though they still used curtains. My things were returned and I was told that Alex would be called to come pick me up. I was to get dressed again and wait; Alex would be along about an hour later.

Monkey and Alex both came to retrieve me, and barely six hours after entering Day Surgery, I left, still on my own two feet, but with a noticeable ache in my groin. I had a Percoset doing its thing, and we would stop at the in-hospital Rexall for my prescription. To manage pain, I was prescribed both Torodol (Ketorolac tromethamine) and Tramacet to manage the pain. The latter came with some stiff warnings of mental function (due to the presence of opioids) and constipation (also due to opioids; someone has to do a study between cognitive capacity and constipation relationships, especially with conservative politicians), so I opted just for the Torodol, as I already had concerns with constipation with the hernia, and I really didn’t want to make matters worse during recovery.

I walked out of the hospital and waited with Monkey while Alex got the car (thankfully, the Honda, which is easier to get into). Although the post-op instructions were not to drive for a week largely due to the Tramacet that I’m not planning on taking, I became painfully clear the biggest reason is the seatbelt, which ran right overtop my new wound. I wore the belt loosely and held it out with my hands, useless in the event of an accident (but I’d have other concerns at that point, I’m sure), but of little concern as Alex drove me home.

Into bed, TV on, and let the Crapwatch begin. For the next few days, I expect to binge nothing but utter drivel. No reality shows for me, just guilty pleasures of streaming nonsense to lull me into a sense of “as little pain as possible”.

The first night, of course, was awful. And the worst part is the bed. Word to the wise: if you have one of those well-advertised foam mattresses that come in a box (which we do), learn that you have no appreciable support for when you need to get out of bed, in case you need water or more drugs (which I did) or need to pee from all the water you’re drinking. My wound was very unhappy with me, I will be sleeping on our guest bed (which has a much firmer mattress until things settle down).

And that’s where I now am, spending my May long weekend plopped on a seat in front of the TV doing nothing, because it’s difficult (and painful) to do anything else. It feels like a lifetime until I’m back on my bike again…

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